By their nature, dogs are opportunists. They descend from a species of hunting canines who had to eat when the eating was good, regardless of the situation. The instinct to gulp as much food as possible before anyone else can get to it is a survival mechanism ingrained in them to varying degrees depending on the lineage of your specific dog.
The conditions of your dog’s life may also provide further impetus to take up this behavior. If you should adopt a rescue, they may previously have been neglected or underfed in a situation where there were many other pets competing for food and attention. This can lead both to food aggression and to the habit of gobbling up food to keep it from the other dogs.
Certainly, not all dogs are like this. While most tend to eat quickly and with minimal chewing, some dogs pace themselves just fine. It can also be temporary — perhaps there’s a specific stimulus prompting them to eat faster than they normally would. If they’re getting more exercise than normal, they could in turn be hungrier than normal.
Whatever the case may be, eating too fast can lead to a variety of maladies. The first and most common is bloat, which is what happens when an excess of air is swallowed and their distended stomachs fold over themselves. It’s potentially fatal, so anything you can do to prevent it is worth the effort. Eating too fast can also cause vomiting or other gastrointestinal distress.
Having a slow feed bowl or puzzle feeder on hand for those situations where your dog insists on eating too fast is a great idea. Slow feed bowls tend to be simple designs that provide just enough of a barrier to slow your pup down. Puzzle feeders are great if your dog gets bored easily, regardless of their behavior at mealtime.
By putting them to work for the reward of food, you get the double benefit of slowing them down while also providing a challenge that stimulates their mind. You don’t get paid without doing work, why should your dog?
If your dog is a true chow hound, consider buying them a slow feeder dog bowl from this list of the ten best.
1. Outward Hound Fun Feeder
A design enhancement on the old standard Brake-Fast, this simple yet clever bowl promises to slow down eating by ten times. Available in two sizes to suit your dog’s size, you can also choose from three different patterns. Or, buy all three and switch them up so your dog gets a new challenge each day. It’s not much of a puzzle, but provides just enough to slow your dog down while they eat. Another alternative to this style to consider is the Jw Pet SkidStop.
Price: $8.07 to $11.99 (40 percent off MSRP)
- Available in two sizes and three styles
- Significantly slows down eating
- Small size holds two cups, while large size holds four
- Top rack dishwasher safe
- Easily flipped over by a clever dog
- Dogs may be hesitant to eat from it at first
- Prone to being chewed
2. PAW5 Rock ‘N Bowl Puzzle Feeder
As I mentioned in this post, I have a young husky mix. He’s still got a serious case of puppy brain despite being 70 pounds, which means two things. First, he scarfs his food when he’s excited. Not all the time, but maybe two or three times a week. Secondly, as a husky, he gets bored very easily. We bought this bowl to extend his mealtimes and give his brain something to work out. It’s not particularly challenging, but it requires him to work for his food, nudging it around the floor and spilling out a few pieces at a time.
I just pour his food in through the top and give it a bit of a shake to settle it into the bottom. However, the top does come off for feeding and cleaning, which is easy because it’s dishwasher safe. The holes in the lid are large enough for various sizes of kibble. My dog loves it.
Price: $29.95 (25 percent off MSRP)
- Provides the perfect amount of stimulation for daily feeding
- Easy to fill and clean
- Holds up to four cups of food
- Dishwasher safe
- Unless confined, your dog will chase this all over the house, leaving a trail of kibble
- The thin plastic edges are prone to being chewed
- Your dog may figure out how to get the top off
3. PAW5 Wooly Snuffle Mat
This was another product we tried with my husky puppy. The food filters down into the fabric rolls, creating a complex foraging dish that requires your dog to sniff out each piece of kibble. As an activity, it provided plenty of stimulation and slowed his eating down dramatically. For upwards of 20 minutes he would work on freeing food and nibbling as he went. There were a couple of drawbacks in that he’d routinely bite the fabric and either drag it around the house or shake it, spilling food everywhere. Since he was quick to eat it up, this wasn’t such an issue. The other thing to know is that it gets dirty in a hurry, so you’ll be tossing it in the washing machine with some regularity. As an occasional fun feeding time game, though, it’s exceptional.
- Machine washable
- Stimulates foraging instinct
- Effectively slows down eating time
- Made of up-cycled materials
- Your dog might get bored of it
- Quickly gets dirty (but is machine washable)
- Especially rough dogs can tear it apart
- Some dogs will pick it up and shake food free
4. Northmate Green Interactive Feeder
This Northmate product is a large, challenging surface meant to emulate throwing food into tall grass. It’s not a slow feeder dog bowl as such, rather a kind of advanced feeding mat. The network of “blades” significantly slows eating time, making meals an intriguing foraging activity. Because of its size and shape, it’s harder than some other slow feed bowls to flip over. The rubber feet on the bottom will keep it from sliding around, and when they’re done, it’s dishwasher safe. You’ll need a decent amount of room for this to fit, but otherwise this is an interesting option to consider.
- Gripping rubber feet to prevent movement
- Challenging surface designed as tall blades of grass
- Large capacity
- Dishwasher safe
- Some reports of over-eager dogs hurting their eyes by diving in vigorously
- Tall projections may not work for all sizes of animals
- Large footprint may not fit in all feeding spaces
5. Outward Hound Fun Mat Portable Dog Feeder Bowl
Closely related to the first item on our list, this is specifically aimed at pet parents who often travel with their fast eater. Made of flexible rubber, this can easily be rolled up and stowed in a bag for trips. Unlike the standard Fun Feeder, the ridge pattern is the same whether you opt for green, pink or teal. In addition to making a handy feeing mat while traveling, you could add this to the bottom of any standard bowl for an instant slow feeder.
Price: $7.99 to $9.99
- Flexible rubber rolls up for travel or can be used in standard dishes
- Ridges provide a light challenge to slow down voracious eaters
- Available in three colors and two sizes
- Top rack dishwasher safe
- Not as much of a challenge as other options
- Easily picked up and chewed
6. Kruuse Buster Activity Mat
Worthy of inclusion on our interactive dog toys list, this involved activity mat is both customizable and expandable. When you first purchase this item, three activities are included: The Envelope, The Water Lily, and The Cone Cloth. Once your dog has mastered those, you can buy more here to keep it interesting.
Since it involves a bit of work on your part, you probably won’t want to use it for daily meals as you might a more typical slow feeder dog bowl, but it nevertheless is fantastic at slowing down eating and keeping your dog occupied for long stretches of time. We have this for our husky, as well, and he loves it. It takes him quite a while to figure out each time. With the expansions, it just about holds a full meal.
- Large play area provides varied challenges
- Expandable with new activities found here
- Durable nylon construction
- Comes with travel and storage bag
- Must be hand washed
- Time consuming to set up for daily meals
- Doesn’t hold a large amount of food unless expanded with other activities
- Snaps may possibly pull off
7. OurPets IQ Treat Ball Interactive Food Dispensing Dog Toy
A treat-dispensing ball can make a great puzzle feeder. Much like the PAW5 bowl above, this will require your dog to move it around a good amount to get any food from it. Though this holds a relatively small amount of food, usually under half a cup, it makes for a challenging meal activity. You can adjust the difficulty by changing the side of the hole on the inside, but this layer can also be left out for a simple treat ball effect. This would be best suited to mid-size dogs who are not known to destroy plastic toys. Very small breeds can get their bottom jaws caught in the opening and very large, destructive dogs will almost certainly break this apart. If your dog is relatively kind to its toys and just eats too fast, this could be a good choice for you.
Price: $9.99 to $18.99
- Slow-release puzzle keeps dogs interested
- Adjustable difficulty level
- Comes apart for easy cleaning
- Good for kibble or treats
- Not dishwasher safe
- Smaller dogs may possibly get their teeth stuck inside the ball
- Larger dogs may be able to break it
- Rolling ball can be loud on hard floors
8. Guzzle Muzzle Slow Feeder Bowl by Wag Haus
One method for slowing your dog’s eating is to spread the kibble out on a large, flat surface. This prevents them from grabbing a big pile of it at once. This slow feeder combines that with a traditional puzzle structure. It’s available in two sizes, the smaller of which holds 3/4 of food and the larger about one cup. The tray is constructed of food grade PVC and silicon and is easy to clean by hand, but can’t be put in the dishwasher. The silicon on the bottom keeps the tray in place and helps resist being turned over. It’s not the prettiest to look at, but it will do the job.
Price: $19.88 to $24.88
- Available in two sizes: small holds 3/4 cup, large holds one cup
- Combines both a puzzle and a mat-style feeder
- Increases feeding time as much as three times
- Easy to clean
- Not dishwasher safe
- May be difficult for dogs with short snouts
- Not as challenging as other options
- Design unlikely to fit in with home decor
9. Bark Busters GameChanger
If your dog has figured out the rest of these, give the GameChanger a try. This is another one we bought to occupy our husky and I can attest that it is stingy. This will certainly draw out a mealtime. It only holds about half a cup of food, so I would utilize this either as a treat game or for the second half of a meal. It takes my husky upwards of half an hour to finally coax the last of the kibble out of this thing. When you first get it, you’ll want to be a little patient with it and supervise your dog.
It’s designed to wear in, so at first, it will be slippery enough that the lid can easily be pried open. After some time, the material will stiffen and become harder to pull apart. It’s a tough device, great for thrashing and keeping your dog occupied. Available in blue, green, yellow, and red and you can mix and match the halves, if you so desire.
- Very challenging puzzle feeder
- Tough polyurethane encourages dog to chew and flexes in response
- Safe for dog teeth
- Quiet on hard floors compared to hard plastic treat dispensers
- Not dishwasher safe
- Requires a break-in period before lid will stay on reliably
- Must use smaller sized kibble
- On the heavy side for very small dogs
10. AmazonBasics Slow Feeder Dog Bowl
If you need something cheap and straightforward, Amazon offers three different slow feed bowls from their AmazonBasics line. Nothing fancy here, just food-safe plastic bowls shaped as either a honeycomb, soccer ball, or tic-tac-toe pattern. If your dog only needs subtle disruption, this should more than meet your needs. The honeycomb and soccer ball each hold 40 ounces, while the tic-tac-toe holds 50. All are backed by a one year warranty.
Price: $3.06 to $9.49
- Dishwasher safe
- Three shapes and patterns to choose from
- One year warranty
- Not very challenging
- Rubber grip doesn’t fully cover the bottom, reducing effectiveness
- Shallow and prone to spilling kibble